Google is joining the quest to bring parts of the developing world that are not yet online up to speed, and the parts that are, to a much faster speed. Google’s Project Link initiative will build fiber-optic networks to assist in connecting the last few billion people around the world to the internet.
Three million residents in and around Kampala, the capital of Uganda, will be the first to experience Project Link.
The country’s president, Yoweri Museveni, has publically shown disinterest toward developing technology. However, in the case of Uganda, the initiative is predicted to enhance the services of pre-existing providers, rather than create new ones.
According to Google, the city currently has what is described as “pre-broadband” speed, and “unreliable connections.”
Kai Wulff, Google’s Access Field Director, took to the company’s blog to explain how Project Link will strengthen the supply chain between undersea cables that deliver data to Africa and internet service providers.
Testimonials from Kampala residents, featured in a Project Link promotional video, cite the initiative as the way to encourage development, trade possibilities, and improve education. They describe it as being more than just a tool with which to grow business, but also as a vision of prosperity for Uganda.
Project Link is being compared to Facebook CEO, Mark Zuckerberg’s Internet.org initiative – another attempt to bring the developing world online.
Both Facebook and Google run the risk of appearing exploitative of new markets and ultimately pursuing profits under the guise of philanthropy. A possibility that does not seem far-fetched, considering only 16% of Africa’s population currently has Internet access.
However, the general consensus at the recent Transform Africa Summit, suggests that corporate motivations are not the primary concern for those invested in Africa’s development.
Government officials discussed the importance of public and private sectors working together – something that is evident in Rwanda, where the summit was held.
A successful example of this, is Korea Telecom’s heavy investment in Rwanda. The collaboration between corporation and country has even enabled a 4G broadband rollout to 95% of the population.
It seems Google is following suit. Project Link is not the only endeavor the multinational corporation has undertaken in Africa lately. Its navigation system has been slowly extended to multiple developing countries on the continent.
– Zoë Dean
Sources: Wired, Google blog
Photo: Occupy Corporatism